Laugh all you want at jam bands and their fans, but while you're congratulating yourself for not liking Umphreys McGee, they're probably going to be embracing another awesome, hard-to-classify act that leaves Idolator stroking its "ironic" soul patch. Case in point: brothers Alvin, Derrick and Keith Lee and their three nephews, direct descendants of the Florida "sacred steel" tradition of gospel music powered by hypno-blues grooves, African rhythms and the burbling whine of steel guitar. That sound made a star of Robert Randolph on the festival circuit, and the Lees have gotten a similarly warm welcome from Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. No wonder: This is church music of infectious joy, even if the only deities you worship are Duane Allman and R.L. Burnside.
Though they're a new endeavor, the Travelin' McCoury's are hardly new to bluegrass. They're kin to the 'grass aristocracy, built around Del McCoury's backing band (including sons Ronnie and Robbie). The former is a renowned mandolin player, the latter skilled at the banjo. They've backed their dad for more than 20 years and recorded and performed with Steve Earle, Doc Watson, String Cheese Incident and Ricky Skaggs. Lately theyve taken Del's band on the road without the patriarch, joining the Lee Boys after striking up a friendship at last year's inaugural DelFest. While rooted in bluegrass traditions, their live collaborations with the Lee Boys suggest their willingness to stretch boundaries, offering a blistering blend of related roots sounds that go together like peanut butter and chocolate. The show precedes a busy year celebrating Del's 50th year making music, beginning in May with DelFest and the release of a 50-song box set retrospective.
Tue., March 10, 8 p.m., 2009